ChessBase New Year's Puzzle 2016

by Frederic Friedel
1/2/2016 – First of all a very Happy New Year to all our faithful readers, and best wishes for happiness and success in the year 2016. To celebrate and to close our Christmas puzzle week we bring you a final problem, one that is easy to formulate but is seriously difficult to solve. This is your chance to compete with some of the world's strongest players and problem experts. And to win a prize with historical significance.

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January 1, 2016: Proof games, quick mates

By Frederic Friedel

In the tradition of our very first and most famous Christmas Puzzle of 1999 we yesterday revived the proof game genre, asking you to reconstruct the moves of two games that were only defined by their final move: Rook takes e5 mate (find the shortest game) and 7.Ka3 mate (find the moves). A number of people succeeded in working them out – the first one in minutes to half an hour, the second in less than five minutes (Garry Kasparov) to hours to not at all. Typically, our most dedicated test candidate, Nisha Mohota, spent 53 minutes, late at night, and only came up with eight-move solutions for the second problem. The next morning, starting afresh, she found the correct solution in less than half an hour. "I think I took much longer on this problem than I should have," she said, "but then I should really not be too adamant about doing it at the end of the day, when I am tired. Mornings are better, when I am fresh!"

You may want to try one more time to solve the problems:

QM1: Give the shortest possible game that ends in rook takes e5 mate?

[Event "Samara"] [Site "Samara"] [Date "2015.12.29"] [Round "?"] [White "Koblentz/Rachels, Michael/Stuart"] [Black "Shortest game Rxe5#"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A00"] [PlyCount "9"] [EventDate "2002.07.26"] [EventType "swiss"] [EventRounds "9"] [EventCountry "RUS"] 1. Nc3 ({Fishbein’s echo:} 1. h4 e5 2. Nc3 Qxh4 3. Ne4 Qd8 4. Rh5 Ke7 5. Rxe5#) 1... e5 2. a3 Bxa3 3. Ne4 Bf8 4. Ra5 Ke7 5. Rxe5# *

QM2: A game ends with the move 7.Ka3 mate.

[Event "?"] [Site "?"] [Date "2015.12.31"] [Round "?"] [White "Rachels, Stuart"] [Black "Proof game 7.Ka3#"] [Result "*"] [ECO "A00"] [PlyCount "13"] [EventDate "2015.??.??"] 1. d3 f6 2. Kd2 Kf7 3. Kc3 Kg6 4. Kb4 Kh5 5. c3 Kh4 6. Qa4 h5 7. Ka3# *

2016 New Year's prize puzzle

Here's a chance for you to win a prize that has some historic significance: the chess engine Hiarcs 13 with a signature of the 13th World Champion Garry Kasparov.

The problem by Stuart Rachels is:

QM3: A game ends with the move 6...Nf1 mate

It is a black move that ends the game, and, very importantly, it is not a capture! Our test candidates came up with moves that end in 6...Nxf1 mate, which is fairly easy (but wrong). On the other hand one of the world's leading problem solvers and experts in exactly this kind of puzzle is still, as we write, struggling to find the solution.

If you want to compete with him and with many other solvers, including the aforementioned 13th World Champion, you should send your solution to us using the Feedback and mail to our news service link given at the bottom of the page. Important: give your solution times and tell us briefly how you found the solution. Or did not find it – that too is of interest.

Naturally nobody should post solutions in the Discussion section at the very bottom. Anyone doing that will have their entry immediately deleted and get a slap on the wrist. You may, of course, report your solution time there, notarially certified if you please.

Bonus logical problem

Recently I was in London visiting an old friend, John Nunn. We went to the Natural History and the Science Museum, and John was worried about a rather stupid remark I had made during the visit. So when we got out and were walking towards the underground station he gave me a mental puzzle, to make sure I wasn't "losing it":

There are 36 coins on a table, ten showing heads and the rest tails. They are covered with a cloth. You must reach under the cloth and separate them into two groups, not necessary equal in number, turning over any and as many coins as you like. You cannot feel or in any way tell whether a coin is showing heads or tails. When you are finished and the cloth is removed both groups should show an equal number of heads. How do you do it?

Thankfully I was able to solve the problem before we reached the underground – and John was relieved. A month later I was in Berlin, where Vincent Keymer met Garry Kasparov. The next morning I had breakfast with the ten-year-old chess prodigy and his father, who teaches music at a German university. I gave them John's coin problem and they spent quite a while thinking about it. When we were leaving they hadn't worked it out, so I quickly gave them the solution. Christof Keymer, the father, said: "Wait, I don't get it!?" To which his son, whose face had immediately lit up, said something truly inspiring: "Don't worry, dad, I'll explain it to you on the plane back." Sent shivers down my spine.

Please note: you are NOT supposed to post the solution in the feedback below. Was that not obvious?

Credit: the thumbnail image on our front page is by the Tamil Nadu State Chess Association

Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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joscho joscho 1/9/2016 01:31
@Jochen Keller: Very true. Of course I was aware it was very unlikely to simply save one ply, but anyway I was believing I was close and needed only small changes. In fact I needed a completely different approach which required realising I had to give up an implicit assumption.
Jochen Keller Jochen Keller 1/8/2016 07:36
@joscho: my experience leads me to think that all the futile attemps to remove this little unnecessary ply show that there is a completely different solution we both are completely missing.
solskytz solskytz 1/7/2016 07:42
When are you guys going to post the solution to the coins question? I can't sleep at night.
joscho joscho 1/6/2016 02:08
7. .. Nf1# is quite easy - I can offer a whole bunch of very different solutions. And each of these solutions has one ply (either for black or for white depending on the solution) that is not needed. But I am still having a hard time to get rid of another ply for the respective other side to finally solve QM3.

The coin puzzle was far easier and nice to relax in between... ;-)
disneychannel disneychannel 1/6/2016 07:41
I am only able to find 7...Nf1.This puzzle is a brain-eater!
Jochen Keller Jochen Keller 1/5/2016 11:17
I can find an easy solution to the bonus problem if "to separate" means defining the cut after removing the cloth. May I do so? If the groups have to be defined "in the dark": my admiration for the people who solved it.
Rootes 42 Rootes 42 1/5/2016 12:30
I usually do much better on the logic problems than the chess ones, and thus it was again this time. I solved the coins problem in a minute or so - not too hard with a bit of logical thinking. I'll give the Nf1# a go, but going by my past record I doubt I'll be able to solve it!
Rybka2-Beater Rybka2-Beater 1/3/2016 04:01
Dev01 wrote at 1/2/2016 07:30 "means 6......Nxf1# is wrong ????? "

No. It means that a game with 6...Nxf1# is not the solution. The move that must occur is 6...Nf1#, and there is such a game.

Also, it is redundant to state "ends with" if the specified move is a mate.
bro bro 1/3/2016 10:36
QM3 taken me 3 hrs yesterday and half an our today. My opinion the GM2 better than QM3, although of course more difficulty.
david7365 david7365 1/3/2016 01:15
For the coin puzzle, it is also possible to arrange the groups so that they have the same number of tails in them.
fixpont fixpont 1/2/2016 08:10
"Please note: you are NOT supposed to post the solution in the feedback below. Was that no obvious?"

That was my fault. Sorry for that.
sicilian_D sicilian_D 1/2/2016 05:08
Managed to solve the puzzle ending in Nf1 mate.
Took me 1 hour. like cythlord, I also got stuck in one pattern initially, but eventually got there.
(Initially I wasted 20 mins in getting a 6 ... Ng1 mate <-- I misread!)
Dev01 Dev01 1/2/2016 07:30
means 6......Nxf1# is wrong

Mjguru Mjguru 1/2/2016 05:54
Is coin one a trick question or there is some actual method in its madness?
cythlord cythlord 1/2/2016 04:33
This puzzle took me a lot longer than the others, but in the end I got it. There are a lot of different mating contraptions to try and I got confused trying to make some work. A nice puzzle, worth about 20 minutes of good thinking time.
AlbertoMuniz AlbertoMuniz 1/2/2016 04:28
The coins one took me 1 minute. The Nf1 one is far more complicated!